The Odds Aren’t So Against You

By Lizzie Bateman @lizzie.bateman


When starting sixth-form I had no idea I would decide to apply to Oxford, let alone make it through to interview & eventually study here. However, for me just making it through A-levels was its own battle.


I chose to stay at the sixth-form at my secondary school which despite only having been open for 5ish years, had great teachers, small class sizes and had gotten excellent A-level results in the past. A few months into Y12 they announced that due to funding issues they would be shutting down the sixth-form and we would be the last year group. Despite the promise that we would still get our teaching for the remaining two years, inevitably the A-level teachers had to leave to find jobs elsewhere. This meant that for y13 I only had teachers brought in from other schools solely for our two-hour lesson; so I relied heavily on my own independence and stubbornness to get me through my courses. And that’s before the fiasco with the pandemic & A-level results…


This also made my decision to apply to oxford a whole new leap of faith. My school couldn’t offer me any help with the application process: I am the first and only one from my school to go to Oxford & the sixth-from had no idea what I would be going through to make it here. I remember how stressed I was in the weeks running up to the UCAS deadline as my reference was only written the day before. I taught myself the skills & content for my pre-interview assessment using past papers and advice from blogs like this one. I had to pull in favours from a family friend at another school the other side of the city to have a mock interview & one of my mum’s colleagues to read through my personal statement & give me advice. All of this led to me arriving at me interview feeling very out of my depth & wishing I could sink into the pavement.


At interviews, I expected to be so badly prepared compared to other people, but I found that everyone else felt exactly the same way. I met people from so many different backgrounds, each having fought their own ‘battles’ to be sat chatting over dinner in hall or exploring the beautiful city in between interviews. Everyone was in the same boat & the odds we thought we stacked against us were actually an even playing field.


By January I had an offer, come August my offer was confirmed & by October I was walking over the bridge of sighs to my new home in Oxford. It was what felt like a leap of faith at the start, but without taking that leap I would never have made it here today.